by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ((1564-1616)
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widowed wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seemed to me
But hope of orphans, and unfathered fruit,
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
“…Shakespeare, Burbage, and others played in two comedies before the Queen [Elizabeth I] in December, 1594, at the Royal Palace at Greenwich; these players then took the leading position as servants to the Lord Chamberlain, though no record has been discovered of the names of the plays performed by them before the Queen at this period. But it is known that “The Pleasant Conceited Comedy of Love’s Labour’s Lost” was played before her highness in the Christmas holidays on December 26, 1597, and in this and the following year the Queen witnessed the First and Second Parts of King Henry IV, both new plays, and was very pleased with the performances. Falstaff gave great delight to the royal spectator and her Court, and at her wish to see exhibited the fat knight in love, the poet produced the comedy of The Merry Wives of Windsor; this play gave infinite satisfaction to all beholders. The part of Falstaff was written originally under the name of Oldcastle; some of that family being then remaining, the Queen was pleased to command him to alter it, upon which he made use of Falstaff, a name that now represents the most humorous character the stage or the world has seen.” Queen Elizabeth: Shakespeare’s Patron